Direct Response Sales Letters – The Good, The Bad, And The Unbelievable.

Direct Response Sales Letters – The Good, The Bad, And The Unbelievable.

Unbelievable Deal


I have a confession to make.

As much as I love writing lead-generating online copy – and I do – writing online sales letters is my favourite type of project.

Direct response sales letters, that is.

Anyone who’s ever been online has seen an online sales letter, they’re hard to miss. Most times you click on a link in an email, or another website, and you go to a long, or short form, letter that tells you a pertinent story along with a host of features and benefits, testimonials, guarantees and an offer.

If it’s a good sales letter you’ll read it through till the end, without being aware you’re being sold.

Oh, you’ll know on a subconscious level that there’ll be an offer of some sort near the end, but the letter is so compelling, so relevant to you, and so exactly-what-you-need, that before you know it you’ll be fumbling for your credit card, eager to get yours before the offer ends, or you miss out.

The thing about online sales letters is it’s easy to measure the results. And just as easy to test different letters to see what’s working and what isn’t.

And as a copywriter, I love getting creative and finding just the right unique selling point that’ll deliver those results. I love to find something new, but familiar, a new spin on an old idea, to give readers an oh-yeah moment and make them take notice.

I love a challenge.

So, what makes a good sales letter?

How long should it be?

Do people even read long-form sales letters anymore? Doesn’t everyone have the attention span of a fruit fly in this brave new world of digital distractions?

An effective sales letter has to do more than grab the reader’s attention with the headline. It has to keep their attention, sentence by sentence, until the end.

The reader must relate to the content.

Know your audience. Use language they understand. They’re called letters because you’re writing to someone you know, make it conversational.

It must address a particular problem, remind the reader how that problem affects their life, and then offer a solution to that problem. Hint: It’s your product or service.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

But the number of bad sales letters online suggests that’s not the case.

Of course, everything is easy if you know how.

The main problem is that people love to buy, but they hate to be sold.

If the reader is aware that they’re about to read a load of lies, and be duped out of their money, they won’t keep reading.

We’ve all read those fake ads claiming all kinds of ridiculous things, with made-up testimonials and too-good-to-be-true offers.

You know, the ones with pictures of luxury cars, yachts, mansions, and don’t forget the questionable graphs and statistics no one can understand.

A true and genuine sales letter is aimed at the right people for all the right reasons. Not to make a quick buck, but to help them solve a problem, or offer the solution to that problem.

It’s all about helping people.

There are no outlandish claims. Everything stated is true, the testimonials are real, and the guarantee is genuine. The letter has credibility.

As a general rule, the more expensive, complex, or abstract the product or service is, the more information the reader needs to make a decision. So, the longer the sales letter should be.

Long or short? It should be as long as it needs to be to convince the reader the product or service will do what you claim it will do.

Remember, you’re asking people to buy something they can only see a picture of. You need to detail all the benefits, and address all the objections.

And yes, people do read long copy. Tests have shown long-form sales copy often outperforms short copy, because of the amount of information, statistics, social proof etc.

If the sales letter is interesting and relevant, people will read to the end. And for those who like to scan, that’s what subheads are for.

Short form copy has its place for familiar products and services, as well as those that don’t ask for much of a commitment, like groceries, and everyday essentials.

For most products or services it’s a case of the more you tell, the more you sell.

The only real downside that I can see with online sales letters is the very crowded market place.

These days we’re bombarded by sales messages, and everyone is trying to sell us the next gotta-have-it thing.

To stand out from the crowd you just have to be different.

And that isn’t as hard as sounds either. If you can establish credibility early on, keep the reader engaged and focus on their needs, while solving a problem for them, you’ll gain a loyal following, and repeat business.

Because honesty and integrity in advertising is becoming a rare commodity.

You don’t need to know your audience to know they want that.

It’s about what your customers need, not what you need.





Comments are closed.